I was cruising JoBlo.com when I discovered an article comparing the poster for the Straw Dogs remake (which I had been hearing bad things about) to the original. I scrolled down the page to see this:
I didn't realize that Dustin Hoffman was in the original, and after reading about the film, it sounded infinitely better than the impending remake.
I had recently seen both Kramer vs. Kramer and Marathon Man for the first time and liked Hoffman in both, so my interest in Straw Dogs, another film from his younger years, was suddenly piqued.
In case you're unfamiliar with the Sam Peckinpah-directed film, it follows meek math teacher David Sumner, played by Dustin Hoffman, and his wife Amy, played by Susan George. The couple returns to Amy’s hometown in England. They end up using a work crew for some repairs on their property, and one of the men, Charlie Venner, happens to be Amy’s former lover. Tensions rise and after a violent encounter between Amy and Charlie, the film culminates in a huge, brutal confrontation between Hoffman and the men. My thoughts on the film a little later, but first…the quest.
After seeing the poster, I headed to Netflix to add the movie to my queue and was greeted with this unwelcome site.
Netflix didn't have the movie...at all???
Cripes, I thought. Now I had to watch this film. I immediately went to Amazon to see about buying a copy and found a few options. The most appealing seemed to be the Criterion Collection, but even used it would be around $25.00. I added it to my wish list for the time being and sent Nick the following email about the film:
"Ever seen the original? It’s not on Netflix. I think that fact, plus the fact that it’s getting remade, might make for a good post. Any interest in watching with me?"
Tiff walked by and I asked her about the movie. She didn’t say much about the original but mentioned that Alexander Skarsgård is in the remake. Get your head out of the guy’s pants! I thought.
My phone alerted me to a text. "I'm game for Straw Dogs, but how?" Nick asked. It's not on Netflix?"
"Yeah." I texted back. "Have to buy it maybe a used copy on Amazon."
The next day, I decided to consider Blockbuster, even though they’d been closing left and right and I hadn’t gone to a Jacksonville location in months. The world is in a sad state when we trade in our big video stores so we can stand in a hot line in front of a Red Box or Blockbuster Express. Sure, we’ve got Netflix and other sources of instant streaming media, but consider the predicament I was in trying to find Straw Dogs.
Finding a Blockbuster at all, let alone one that stocked the movie, immediately proved to be difficult. A Google Maps search found mostly Blockbuster Express kiosks. I called one of the non-kiosks only to find that the number was disconnected.
I decided to look on the actual Blockbuster website and learned that the closest store to me was now over 10 miles away. Upon calling the store and asking if they had a copy of the film, I was told no. I asked if any of the locations in town carried any copies and there were a few moments of silence while the clerk checked. His voice returned to the line and he told me that they had a copy for sale for $9.99.
I was understandably confused. “So you have a copy or you think you have a copy?” I asked. The clerk said he had a few customers waiting on him so I told him I’d call him back.
The next day I called the Blockbuster again to confirm that they had the movie. The clerk remembered me and told me that he was holding the movie for me. Straw Dogs was in reach.
That was a Friday, and after finishing the work day I drove all the way down to the Blockbuster location in Mandarin. The end-of-the-week traffic was intense and the racehorse in the sky was about to pee buckets.
I found the Blockbuster, and after snagging Greenberg, The Ghost Writer, and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee all for .99 cents, I approached the checkout desk and asked for Straw Dogs. This is what I got:
You probably can't read that, so here's what it says:
"Strawdogs – 9.99 PRP
Someone called and wanted this. Didn't get name. Put back on Friday if he doesn't come in to get it."
The note displayed my sentiments perfectly – “Found it.”
So we finally got around to watching the film the other day. Most of the crew assembled and I made my now famous walking tacos and we settled in.
After watching the film, I can say the effort to get it was worth it. I hadn't seen a lot of Peckinpah (I don't think I've seen any other Peckinpah, actually), but he crafted an intriguing movie. The film definitely makes some interesting points about violence and where it can lead us. I sort of think of it as a precursor and relative to A History of Violence. And I think someone involved in the film had some issues with women. I’ll just let Wikipedia explain:
“The film was controversial on its 1971 release, mostly because of the prolonged rape scene that is the film's centerpiece. Critics accused director Peckinpah of glamorizing rape and of engaging in misogynistic sadism, especially disturbed by the scene's ambiguity — after initially resisting, Amy appears sympathetic toward her rapist, although afterwards she has traumatic flashbacks. Peckinpah's defenders claim the scene was unambiguously horrifying, that Amy's trauma was truthfully portrayed. Amy does scream during the rape.”
So critics were asking, “Did Amy enjoy the ‘encounter’?” Honestly, when I watched it, I couldn't help but notice that Amy (eventually) seems to enjoy "making love" to Charlie. She initially fights him and he even slaps her, but eventually it's unclear and she even seems to caress him. I’d like to point out, however, that the scene is intercut with an earlier scene of Amy and David making love. I sort of took that to mean that Amy was confused in a way. Maybe she was in shock?
Whatever your theory about “the scene” is, I think the film is a good one. I recommend watching it, if you don’t mind buying it online somewhere. Quest complete!